I wrote this during the 150th Birthday celebration for West Virginia a few months ago, It seems to be a good response to the nasty tweet from the reporter at the Detroit Free Press, so I thought I would post it again with a few additions.
This week marks the 150th anniversary of the State Of West Virginia. It’s the state of my birth, and despite having grown up in Ohio, is still the place I feel most at home. It’s a place of many diverse cultures, and more than a few contradictions. Founded because the western portion of Virgina was nearly all loyal to the Union, West Virginia came to be due to the American Civil War. Although not typically considered a Civil War hotspot, many milestones of the “War Of The Rebellion” took place in the Mountain State.
The very first land battle of the war took place in Philippi when the Union forces under George McClellan routed Confederate troops so quickly the the small battle was forever known as “the Philippi Races”. It was also near that spot where the very first Union soldier died as a result of enemy action. Thornsberry Baily Brown is buried in Grafton National Cemetery. The first General killed in the Civil War, Confederate General Robert Garnett was killed at the Battle of Corricks Ford in Tucker County, which was the tail end of the Battle Of Rich Mountain. Stonewall Jackson was born in what is now Clarksburg, West Virginia, and spent his boyhood at Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County.
Did you know that two aviation titans hail from West Virginia? Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier first and comes from Hamlin. Yeager’s friend and colleague as a test pilot was Pete Everest who came from Fairmont–which is also home to legendary Blues and Rock Piano guru Johnnie Johnson who inspired Chuck Berry to write “Johnny B. Goode”
You can find all of that in history books and I highly recommend you do just that because it’s fascinating to explore the birth of an entire state. What you likely don’t know is that West Virginia is home of the largest Italian Heritage Festival in the country. Clarksburg celebrates the area’s deep-rooted Italian history every Labor Day weekend. Fairmont is home of the Pepperoni Roll. they’re considered a true delicacy by those fortunate enough to enjoy them. All across the state there are fabulous hot dog shops. Dogs with sauce are a staple food for natives, although almost everyone has a favorite combination and formula for the aforementioned sauce.
West Virginia is also home to the National Radio Quiet Zone. It’s a 13,000 square mile parcel that straddles Virginia and West Virginia. It’s home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, along with Sugar Grove Naval Radio Station. It’s a highly classified intelligence gathering post, while NRAO is one of just a few places on the planet that listen 24/7 for electronic sounds from deep space. Did you also know West Virginia University has more Rhodes Scholars than any other institution in the U.S? Or that author Pearl Buck was a native?
Probably not. in fact you probably don’t know much about West Virginia, and that’s frankly a real shame. If you ever have a week to kill, I highly suggest taking a week to just drive the mountain highways of West Virginia. You will never find a more beautiful place, or friendlier people. Happy Birthday West Virginia!